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Saturday, 23 September, 2000, 00:39 GMT 01:39 UK
Web research centre set to open
Computers
The research centre will examine the "digital divide"
A UK research centre to examine the impact of new technology is to be opened before the end of this year.

But the Department for Education says it is still unsure whether it will be a "virtual" centre or physically located within a university or commercial research unit.

This will depend upon the tenders submitted to the education department. A spokesman said they were looking forward to some "creative" proposals.

Michael Wills
Michael Wills says the centre will help with government planning
The funding of the new institution will also depend on the outcome of the tendering process, with a contract to be awarded in November and the launch of the centre expected in December.

The research centre will be responsible for in-depth analysis of the application of new technologies such as the internet and will help to provide expert advice to the government.

The Minister for Learning and Technology, Michael Wills, said on Friday the centre would initially focus on two areas: the so-called "digital divide" where there is unequal access to new technologies and the link between employability and new technology.

Skills shortage

He said: "As we enter the 21st Century, a rigorous understanding of new technology will be crucial to anyone who wants to succeed in the wired or the wireless world.

"Research into new technology and digital communications will provide the government with invaluable knowledge that will help to ensure future policies are able to address the many issues that new technology raises."

"At present the current level of information and communications technology skills of the adult population is unlikely to meet future skills demands. If left unchecked the skills shortage has the potential to seriously undermine competitiveness.

"Research will enable the government to understand key trends, analyse needs and respond with accurate policies".

The government set up two research centres last year - the Wider Benefits of Learning Research Centre and the Centre on the Economics of Education - which again were intended to provide analysis and forecasts for future planning.

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See also:

06 Sep 00 | Education
Schools 'on track' for online target
30 Jun 00 | Education
Employers netting graduates
15 Aug 00 | Education
Adult online learning 'first'
27 Jun 00 | Education
Online boost for computer skills
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